The Rutgers men’s soccer team has a chance to snap a four-game winless streak on Friday night, as it heads to Evanston, Illinois to take on Northwestern.
The Scarlet Knights (7-3-2, 1-3-1) suffered a 2-1 double-overtime defeat at the hands of Michigan State last Sunday at Yurcak Field. The loss gave the Spartans (5-6-2, 1-2-2) their first conference win of the season.
For Rutgers, the biggest weakness for much of the conference slate has been an inability to score goals. The Knights have scored only 1 goal in their last 4 games, with the goal coming from sophomore defender Cole Sotack.
Defensively, Rutgers has only one shutout during that timespan — a 0-0 draw against Maryland. They’ve allowed 2 goals in each of their last three losses.
“It’s just about getting back to work and seeing if we can turn these little half chances into goals,” said head men's soccer coach Jim McElderry after the Michigan State game. “It’s fine margins of winning games or losing games.”
The Wildcats (4-6-2, 1-4-0) have struggled to get a foothold in the Big Ten this season, sitting one point below the Knights in the conference standings with a 1-4 Big Ten record. Northwestern’s lone conference win came against Ohio State, who sits at the bottom of the standings through four games of Big Ten play.
The Wildcats have struggled to control the run of play in games this season, being outshot by an average margin of 14 to 8 shots per game. Offensively, Northwestern has scored 5 times in 5 Big Ten games, with Justin Weiss and Vicente Castro combining to make up the entirety of their offensive production.
This road matchup comes at a pivotal point in Rutgers’ season. After non-conference play saw it get off to its best eight-game start since 1985, the Knights have fallen to 7th place in the Big Ten with 4 points. They now sit 6 points out of 4th place, which would earn them a spot in the Big Ten Tournament, with three conference games to play.
“There’s no magic tricks,” McElderry said. “It’s just about effort, competitiveness, training hard and then executing when we get on there.”
There aren’t that many opportunities to bridge that gap left: After the Northwestern game, Rutgers has just two games left in Big Ten play — accompanied by a non-conference road trip to play UConn.
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